Though it’s chilly as we write this, Spring is finally here - and with it, a suggestion that pandemic recovery will be closely bound up in future-proof technologies. Demand for talent is warming up in sectors which are often seen as barometers of economic health. Despite this, there are still challenges: will enough of our future generations be drawn to STEM careers?
More funding to help UK auto move to net-zero
Over £54 million in combined government and industry funding has been committed to three innovative green automotive projects across the UK, coordinated by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC).
The three projects include the development and manufacture of low-cost hydrogen fuel cell bus technology and a hydrogen centre of excellence in Northern Ireland; the development of lightweight electric powertrains for heavy goods vehicles, led by Meritor in Wales, which will also see a new technology centre built in Scotland, and the development and manufacture of a motorsport energy recovery system integrated with an e-axle and motor to reduce energy use in vehicles.
New Safety Cars for 2021 Grands Prix
Two brands will supply Formula 1’s safety and medical cars this season, as Aston Martin join incumbent suppliers Mercedes for the first time in the sport.
Aston Martin has shown off its Vantage Safety Car and its DBX Medical Car, with the pair set to make their debut at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. Mercedes’ new look for 2021 will see its AMG GT R Safety Car and C 63 S Estate Medical Car both dressed in red, synonymous with the German marque's Rote Sau racing car.
The racing green Aston Martin Vantage Safety Car has undergone suspension and aero modifications so it can lead the F1 cars at sufficient speed to keep tyre temperatures adequate. Each of these cars is quite something to behold, so it feels weird saying we hope we don’t see them!
Manufacturing & Technology
JCB hiring: more evidence of COVID-19 bounce-back.
The bounce-back continues as JCB launches a recruitment drive to hire 450 agency shop floor staff at factories in Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Wrexham. The digger maker is also to give permanent contracts to 300 existing staff members, and had already announced 400 new jobs, excluding the fresh agency hires.
The brand announced that jobs were at risk last year as production halted while orders “disappeared overnight”, but with 850 new jobs created this year and the demand for construction equipment continuing to soar, it seems the rebound following the pandemic is well under way.
Tesla Gigafactory talk is hotting up
Talk has resumed of a possible Tesla Gigafactory in Somerset, at a 635-acre smart campus called Gravity, which is currently under development.
Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said the government believes the Somerset location will be able to sustain a Tesla Gigafactory and is one of the few locations in England large enough to house a factory of that size. It is conveniently located near the M5 and Junction 23 highways with a railway and air- and seaports close by.
Minister Kwarteng has outlined the government’s pledge to support EV and battery manufacturing, with Gravity wanting to attract “world-leaders in advanced manufacturing, robotics, artificial intelligence and electric vehicles". The Faraday Institution estimates that Britain will need two gigafactories by 2025 and eight by 2040 to meet demand for electric vehicles and batteries.
Executives and Leaders
More movement at the top as Britishvolt hires industry veterans
Britishvolt, the startup aiming to open the country's first high-volume lithium-ion battery plant in 2023, has hired two industry veterans as advisers. It has announced the appointment of Joe Bakaj, Ford’s former European vice president of product development, and Nick Spencer, former BMW and JLR executive, to its advisory board.
Britishvolt is investing about $3 billion to build its plant in north-eastern England, which will come online as JLR and other European car makers begin scaling up production of electric vehicles.
UK engineering must create a more diverse pool of future engineers.
We love this blog about the need to encourage young people from underrepresented groups to consider a career in engineering. What, the author asks, can we do to improve the balance between male and female apprentices in UK engineering?
Engineering UK’s 2019 report “Gender disparity in engineering” revealed female under-representation in engineering is due to girls dropping out of educational pathways at every decision point, despite performing at least as well as boys in STEM subjects at school.
It’s worth a read: www.theengineer.co.uk